Tag Archives: Jetta

Efficient Urban Transportation in a Zip

February 24, 2017 by

Living in a technologically advanced world has its advantages, like convenience and fiscal recompenses we never could have envisioned.

As a Los Angeles native who paid car insurance the price of a mortgage in some places, one new convenience I can appreciate is Zipcar.

The program has graced Omaha with its presence for seven years. Zipcar was founded in 2000 by Antje Danielson, current director of education at MIT Energy Initiative, and  Robin Chase, co-founder of French chartering service Buzzcar. The pair created Zipcar to provide a more efficient, affordable method of driving in the city.

Zipcar P.R. manager Lindsay Wester, who is based in Boston, explains that Zipcar is as simple as join, reserve, and drive.

Business customers begin by signing up online, where they pay a one-time setup fee of $75 and annual membership dues of $35 for each driver. This membership covers fuel, insurance, mileage, parking, and maintenance. Individuals can pay a $25 one-time setup fee annual dues of $70, or a monthly fee of $7 plus the one-time setup fee.

The Omaha fleet includes two Honda Civics and a Ford Escape. The Hondas and the Ford cost $8.50 per hour Monday through Thursday, or $69 per day. The Friday through Sunday rate is $9.50 per hour, or $77 per day for the Hondas and $83 per day for the Escape.  The other car available in Omaha is a Volkswagen Jetta, which costs $9 per hour or $69 daily at all times. The cars are parked on Creighton and UNMC’s campuses, downtown at 17th Street and Capitol Avenue, and at Mammel Hall near Aksarben Village.

Upon becoming a member, the company sends the user a Zipcard, which functions as an entry key. The ignition key stays inside the vehicle. Each user gets one card with their membership, which gives them access to Zipcar’s nationwide fleet. Upon reserving a car, the company digitally connects the Zipcard to the specific car reserved. The user gains access to the vehicle by holding the card to the card reader placed in the windshield. After scanning in with the Zipcard, a user’s smartphone can be a backup to the Zipcard for locking or unlocking the car doors throughout a reservation.

The company first brought their concept to Omaha in 2010, launching at Creighton University, followed by University of Nebraska in 2012, then the Medical Center in October 2015. In Omaha, the target market has been students, but Zipcars also are useful for travelers.

Melanie Stewart, sustainability manager at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, is in charge of UNMC’s program.

“Last year we had a visiting professor come in, and they had a friend in Lincoln, so they used a Zipcar to visit their friend while in Omaha,” Stewart says.

The Zipcars are also used by visitors of patients who may need to purchase supplies or just take a break from being at the hospital.

Patrick Lin, a 21-year-old Omaha resident, says, “I used Zipcar roughly four to six hours every week during my sophomore year. I first heard about it from some friends in California because they couldn’t have cars during their first year at college.”

Lin enjoys the ability to use a car when needed without the expense of owning it. “Personally, it allows a lot more to get done compared to other services. The only restraint I have is that since there is a time limit, you must plan your activities accordingly. But the per-mile usage you can get when a trip is planned right is entirely worth the time constraints,” he says.

Wester says that Zipcar has remained successful and growing for more than a decade and a half. And as city dwellers become more disenchanted with the idea of owning cars, their success should continue to accelerate.

Visit zipcar.com for more information.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

What’s That Thing

October 13, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Shakespeare wrote of love and betrayal. Tolkien of hobbits and wizards. Steinbeck and Faulkner of the indomitable American spirit.

Layne Yahnke writes about his VW Thing.

Yes, the two-wheel-drive, off-road convertible military vehicle first manufactured for the West German Army as “Type 181” in 1968. VW churned them out until 1983, including two years in the United States when marketed as “The Thing.”

Yahnke got his Thing in 2000 for $5,500. He’s lovingly restored it, most importantly giving it a peppy new motor that makes it Autobahn-worthy.

There’s only one other Thing in Omaha and Yahnke gets lots of second and third looks when he’s whipping down the Dodge Street Expressway from his Elkhorn home. Especially when the doors are off and windshield is down.

Everyone wants to know about…the Thing.

Thus Yahnke penned, “It Takes a Village to Build a VW Thing,” an ode to those who helped him with his beloved ride—his sons, Omaha VW Club members, engine and body shops, and parts stores.

“I wrote that right after the engine transplant,” says Yahnke, an Omaha native and vice president at Essex Corp., provider of senior living communities. “I guess I was moved. I get so many inquiries about it and I really feel so fondly about it.”

It’s not his first Thing. Yahnke and his wife of 38 years, Pam, owned one before their four children came along. As the kids have come and gone, so have the cars.

Lots of them.

Layne and Pam Yahnke

Layne and Pam Yahnke


Yahnke figures he has owned 60 automobiles in his life. His car fancy began as a kid growing up in Dundee where a friend’s dad spent his spare time restoring English cars. Yahnke spent hours in his garage and developed a love for Triumphs and MGs. His first car purchase was a 1962 Triumph for $425 in 1972. It wasn’t long, though, until he sold it at a profit.

“That’s what kicked off the buying and selling of English cars,” he says. “I discovered I could enjoy my transportation, but then as soon as someone wanted to buy it for more than I paid for it, out it went.”

These days, you never know what will be parked in the Yahnke driveway. Currently, there’s a Honda pickup, a VW Jetta, VW Multivan, and a 2001 Audi TT Quatro Convertible—purchased in apropos silver for his 25th wedding anniversary.

It’s the Thing he most enjoys driving. He logs about 1,000 miles on it each year. Most of those have come topless—Yahnke long ago gave it away to another Thing enthusiast and now only drives it sans roof.

“Anyone who sees this car has only seen it top-down,” he says. “I just got caught once in the rain, and that was probably a month ago. The cool thing about the Thing is you leave it out in the sun and it dries out and is ready to go.”

It says, “Summer is here,” Yahnke says.

“People speed up all the time to try to figure out what it is. It’s just a happy car and it’s so darn versatile. It puts smiles on peoples’ faces.”



Eric Williams

January 5, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Fellow travelers on Omaha’s roads might figure Eric Williams spends all his time on the links. It’s an understandable misconception given his personalized license plates that read, “BIOGOLF.”
Rather, the plates are a reference to Williams’ preference to putt around…on bio fuel.

Since 2006, Williams has been driving cars that run mostly on commercially produced biofuels. First, that was with a 2002 Jetta. These days he’s behind the wheel of a 2003 Volkswagen Golf TDI, which boasts a 1.9-liter diesel engine.

Thus the license plate.

He definitely puts his miles where his mouth is. In the past nine years, Williams has driven more than 75,000 miles on biofuels, including road trips from California to Omaha.

“No modifications were needed to allow biodiesel,” he says. “Just pump it into the tank and I’m all set. I do most of my own maintenance on the car, and have made some other improvements to increase efficiency on the road. I generally get around 45-plus miles per gallon combined city/highway when running on pure biofuels.”

He’s hoping to get others to do the same. Williams and other biofuel-conscious folks in 2008 formed the Omaha Biofuels Cooperative. Williams is president (by day he’s a natural resources planner for the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District).

The co-op is working on getting permits to provide their own fuel. That could mean collecting waste oil from local restaurants and recycling that into fuel for member cars.

“The mission of the co-op is to produce, use, and promote biofuels,” Williams says. “We wish to use biofuels to replace fossil fuels…to reduce the total environmental impact.

In the mean time, Williams has a couple of his own biofuel projects cooking. He recently purchased a 1987 International short bus that he’s converting to run directly on recycled cooking oil. He’ll take that on camping trips. He also is modifying a moped, replacing the gasoline engine with a small diesel engine so it can run on a blend of biofuels.

Sounds like he’ll be making a couple trips to the DMV for more personalized license plates.